Khayrallahs Give $8.1 Million for New Lebanese Diaspora Studies Center
For Immediate Release
Chancellor Randy Woodson announced today an $8.1 million gift that will establish the Moise A. Khayrallah Center for Lebanese Diaspora Studies at NC State University – the university’s first endowed center.
The gift is the largest in the history of NC State’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences. It will engage an important global dialogue by creating a unique center dedicated to the study of immigration – particularly the Lebanese dispersion from their homeland throughout the United States and the rest of the world – and to disseminating this knowledge to the scholarly community and the general public.
The center is funded by Dr. Moise A. Khayrallah and his wife, Vera Khayrallah. The couple emigrated from Lebanon to North Carolina in 1983 to attend graduate school. Moise Khayrallah is a biotechnology entrepreneur who has started three drug-development companies; Vera is a licensed social worker and human services senior practitioner with Wake County Human Services.
“This unique center will provide our faculty and students with numerous opportunities to ask questions about the Lebanese Diaspora, and also about other migrations across the world,” Woodson said. “In doing so, it will advance knowledge about the global movements of peoples, ideas, commodities and cultures, and engage one of the most important and pressing dynamics in human history and globalization. It will provide funds to engage world-leading faculty conducting important research and provide experiential educational opportunities to our students.”
The gift will fund the center as well as the Moise A. Khayrallah Distinguished Professorship in Lebanese Diaspora Studies. It will help build an online digital research archive chronicling the Lebanese diaspora in America; host conferences and workshops on the Lebanese diaspora which bring together top scholars in the field; provide NC State students with engagement and research opportunities; publish an online journal, with both scholarly articles and artistic expressions, dedicated to the Lebanese diaspora; and produce public history projects from documentaries to museum exhibits that disseminate this knowledge to the general public and engage them in the conversation about migration and its impact on our societies and world.
“This gift is all about building community,” Moise Khayrallah said. “This area — the Triangle and North Carolina — has been a community for us since we stepped off a plane at the Raleigh/Durham airport and a stranger picked us up and took us to his house 30 years ago. We want to continue to have something that tells the story of the community.”
Funding will also support a post-doctoral fellow in Lebanese Diaspora Studies for research. The scholar will teach courses and deliver a series of lectures to showcase his/her work in public venues. The gift will also help build a global network of affiliated scholars and provide funding for short workshops, as well as underwrite a series of research projects that engage our graduate and undergraduate students.
“Our students will benefit tremendously from the gift,” said Dr. Jeffery P. Braden, the college’s dean. “NC State offers a master’s degree in public history and one of only three doctoral degrees in public history nationwide. Our public history students will gain great opportunities to become the next generation of scholars advancing Lebanese and Middle East diaspora studies. There is also an important outreach component with K-12 schools, as we will host workshops to help teachers create lesson plans that integrate the story of community and immigration into the history of the United States and the history of the teachers’ states.”
Dr. Akram Khater, an NC State professor of history, directs the Khayrallah Program for Lebanese-American Studies, a program that has researched, documented and exhibited the story of the Lebanese community in North Carolina – a history that goes back more than 130 years.
“Our past research has served as a pilot program for the mission and work of the new center,” Khater said. “Over the past four years we collected oral histories of Lebanese-Americans in North Carolina that we subsequently used to produce a television documentary and a museum exhibit. The funding from Moise and Vera Khayrallah will allow us to expand on this foundation and provide research and insight into the movement of people from Lebanon to the United States, a migration that is uniquely Lebanese, yet echoes across other immigrant communities.”
Moise Khayrallah chairs the board of directors for the University of North Carolina system’s Center for International Understanding, which provides leadership development programs to identify international policy issues and position North Carolina to make the most of global opportunities. He also serves as a board member of the Council for Entrepreneurial Development and the Carolina Ballet. The Khayrallahs are members of NC State’s William Joseph Peele Lifetime Giving Society and the Chancellor’s Circle.
Moise Khayrallah received an achievement award from the Lebanese Emigration Research Center at the University of Notre Dame earlier this year and received the Triangle Lebanese Association’s Community Service Award in 2012.
Vera Khayrallah added that she wants the center to become an exemplar for other immigrant communities in the state and nation.
“In the end, we are all just people here; we all emigrated from somewhere,” she said. “I am like you. We share similar stories. If we can find more closeness and more peace – more community – from sharing these stories, then that is a worthwhile legacy.”
– kulikowski –